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Technology Pumps Up CNG Fueling Equipment

The compressed natural gas (CNG) equipment that is a key to fueling future growth of natural gas vehicles (NGV) is riding a wave of technology advancements that is pumping new energy into the efforts to develop a more widespread fueling network for natural gas transportation.

A Landi Renzo unit, Safe North America, and Texas-based Broadwind Energy have developed two 250 hp CNG compression units (SW Series) that will be available in June for demonstration and sales, according to the two companies. Italian-based Safe SpA is considered a global leader in CNG equipment.

Broadwind became a partner of Safe's in October. It said all of the compressor's components are Underwriters Laboratory-approved. The system is water-cooled, which is expected to give the units "superior control and more consistent operating temperatures to reduce compressor wear," according to Broadwind Vice President Joe Reisinger.

He told the Fleets & Fuels newsletter that the system is also supposed to be quieter: 75 decibels, or 65 with optional additional sound insulation. The initial compressors have an output of 540 standard cubic feet/minute (scfm) and will be able to operate at gas inlet pressures ranging from 15 to 45 psi.

Safe said it now offers SW compressors ranging up to 600 hp with outputs of up to 4,300 scfm, along with a range of smaller models.

From New Zealand, Oasis Engineering Co. has a new high-speed CNG fueling technology, the "ultra fast fill system." The key is its breakaway coupler, which is an upgraded version of an older model designed to speed up CNG fueling and do it more safely, according to company officials.

The coupler is the link between the fuel-supplying CNG compression equipment and the vehicle fuel-handling system, and its breakaway aspect allows for a safe end to the fueling if a vehicle operator inadvertently pulls away from the station without decoupling the hose.

"Applications include high-flow CNG systems, such as virtual pipeline transport trailers and bulk storage, as well as CNG load/unload," according to the Oasis product description. The product is part of the Oasis fast-fill CNG fueling system complete with compressors, storage and dispensers.

In the United States, Nebraska-based Hexagon Lincoln rolled out an all-composite CNG fuel cylinder (the Type IV), its largest yet at 27 inches in diameter, offering 160 diesel-gallon-equivalent capacity. It is now being promoted by Agility Fuel Systems, the tank-maker said.

Originally unveiled last fall, the new tank was developed in less than a year through a Hexagon-Agility joint venture. Agility also said it is pursuing a $7.5 million factory in Salisbury, NC, to make its CNG systems, including the Hexagon Lincoln tanks. Whether the tank production will be at that site is still to be determined, according to Hexagon Vice President Chet Dawes.

In Houston, two CNG fueling station advances were announced in mid-February: a Freedom CNG GE station set for north Houston and an agreement between Oklahoma City-based Sparq Natural Gas and convenience store operator Express Fuel Products for another CNG station in north Houston.

CenterPoint Energy will supply the natural gas to both facilities. Freedom CNG's facility will be a public-access station, opening in the third quarter. Houston Metro is buying 150 CNG buses, and at least 83 of them are slated to be fueled at the facility.

Using the General Electric "CNG in a Box" fueling system, Sparq said a Valero station in north Houston will be its first station opened with Express Fuel. GE's CNG system will include remote monitoring, service and maintenance support. Sparq said it is using Nevada-based Valley Civil Design Group to do site planning, design and engineering and Oklahoma-based NGV Construction to build the station, which will aim at the work truck and medium-duty NGV market.

Separately, as another indication of the momentum continuing in the NGV sector, Ryder System Inc., a major user of NGVs and alternative fuels, said it will train all of its more than 6,000 maintenance/service employees in NGV technology. "The program will provide the company's technician workforce with knowledge of all NGV platforms and configurations," Ryder said.

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